Intersections of Detective Fiction and Memory: Robert Hans van Gulik’s Judge Dee Stories in Memory Culture
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Inspired by an emerging interest in the intersections between literature and cultural memory and literature’s own memory, this thesis tries to shed light on some of ways in which detective fiction and memory meets through a close reading and analysis of Robert Hans van Gulik’s Judge Dee mysteries which present the return of elements from precursor texts and the combination of typical conventions of the genres of the Chinese gong’an stories and Western detective fiction. Building on the notion of “memory of literature” summarized and conceptualized by Erll and Nünning and Lachmann’s post-structural theory of intertextuality, this thesis attempts to show that Van Gulik’s Judge Dee detective series construct their own memories and participate in the inner-literary memory discourses by remembering several earlier (literary or non-literary) texts and echoing and adapting traditions of both the old Chinese and Western detective story. The intertextual reference and transformation of elements from pre-existent texts and detective-story conventions allow the Judge Dee stories to sketch out a memory space made up of texts, to produce a new paradigm that blends the Chinese gong’an formula with the Western crime-writing traditions, and to create an entirely new set of expectations for detective fiction.